In a recent post in the Future Commons, a blog supported by The Institute for the Future with which The Grove is an affiliate, Eileen Clegg asked a wonderful question about the speed of our current culture related to on-line worlds. I responded and thought the exchange was worth posting here. Eileen wrote:
It seems like most really great work happens in collaboration over a long period of time, through many cycles, as people bump up against differences (of perspective, personal style) and come to understand each other so that diversity becomes productive.
It’s frustrating that we have amazing tools to support deep collaborative work -- but instead of “going deep,” most of us are “spreading thin” -- multiple communities, frequent team changes, hundreds of online connections. Maybe we are (or at least I am) not smart enough to figure out how to engage in a steady, meaningful way across a universe of people and possibilities.
So I’ve been reflecting on loyalty, long-term work partnerships, authenticity, sticking-it-out, patience (personal aspirations...). I’ve been thinking maybe “deep slow work” is the new counter-culture.
I responded that the wonderful paradox, if that happens to be the case, is that it would be very hard to analyze or prove, for the long cycles tend to be invisible to the short cycle world.
I remember going to a Knowledge Magazine symposium at the Knowhere Store some years ago on “knowledge creation” and being in a small group with Stewart Brand, who was expounding on the loss of long cycle memory and consciousness in our current culture. We used to keep all the hand written drafts of people like Thomas Jefferson and other authors, but now most of the versions disappear in the Word editing process. He speculated about the the fact that the longer cycles actually control the shorter cycles in nature, and does this speeding up of our attention mean we are increasingly flying blind. For some reason this little small group inquiry has come to haunt me, and comes up again in response to your inquiry, Eileen.
Thinking metaphorically, which is my wont from years of visual interpretation and listening, I see a parallel between this on-line engagement and presence issue and the way in which stimulation and feeling gets confused for me individually. Coffee, adrenaline, fast cut videos, immersive electronic music and many other features in our current hi tech environment are very attractive. I like the action and the buzz. But for all its seeming pleasure, I don’t find it is the same as being open and balanced from healthy eating, good exercise, and being able to “feel” another persons emotion as I am communicating. Just back from a vision quest in Joshua Tree National Monujment, I am full of the awareness of this difference. It’s almost as tho I woke up from a kind of overstimulated sleep.
I wonder sometime if the cigarette boats haven’t swamped the canoes and we have even forgotten that canoing provides another kind of ecstasy.
Paul Saffo responded to this post with a wonderful link.
Nicely stated, David, and I completely agree. It is a subject much discussed among us over at Long Now, and reinforcing your observation, here is a video of a conversation between Carlo Petrini (father of the Slow Food movement) and Alexander Rose that was held at Yerba Buena Center earlier this month. Wonderful, compelling stuff, and of course about the power of the slow.